I was at a conference sponsored by a large high-tech firm, and because they were a high-tech firm, they were going to be fancy and high-tech and put QR codes on everyone’s namebadge with their contact info. In theory, you would scan the QR code with your smartphone and download their info directly and this would make networking more efficient.
In practice it was a pain in the ass. I got tired of aiming my phone at someone’s badge and trying to keep everyone physically still enough for it to work. And it was a huge interruption in the flow of the conversations I was having. And then there was the afternoon my phone battery died…
So what happened? By the end of the conference, most of the attendees had fallen back on the often-slighted, usually-overlooked, and in my opinion totally awesome networking tool…the business card.
If you are serious about building a vibrant network, both offline and online, your business card is a indispensable. I learned that from mom. (If I’m out with her and I don’t have a card to give to someone she’s just introduced me to she still gets mad). And it’s not just about passing out your own cards. Get in the habit of always asking for a card from the people you meet. Don’t be shy about asking, “Hey, can I grab a card from you.”Here’s why:
- You Can Network Anywhere – It’s a mistake to think that you should be only networking at a conference or professional event; good networkers are always open to creating new connections. I’ve met useful business contacts at weddings, summer festivals, heck, even waiting at a bar to buy a drink. I don’t lead with my business card, that would be pushy. But it makes a lot of sense to say, “Hey, this has been a great conversation. Here’s my card – shoot me an email and we’ll continue talking!”
- It’s a Physical Reminder – Have you ever met a great contact, and then totally forgot to follow up with them until the next time you ran into them? Think about how many people you forget to follow up with and then never see again. You’re a busy person and you are already trying to keep too many things in your memory – don’t put something else in there that you don’t need to. It’s so much easier to go through your pockets after a conference or a networking meeting and pull out a stack of cards…it’s better than playing the “What was Their Last Name??” game with yourself.
- You Won’t Run into Compatibility Issues – I’m a PC guy. I have friends who are Mac people. Those platforms don’t always talk nice. It can be the same with using technology to share contact info. They might use Outlook, Salesforce, .vcf file, LinkedIn, Cardmunch, blah, blah, blah. You don’t have to worry about that with business cards. Just give them one and let them do whatever they would like with it. And you can do the same with the card they give you. No muss. No fuss. And even if the power goes out, you can always use a business card.
And then when you are done with them, recycle. Or make a colorful collage. Or just a big pile. But don’t think you’re too cool for school. Use business cards right and it will help your network flourish!